MLB Baseball betting is a little bit different because you are primarily picking outright winners (money lines), with the prices adjusted for the quality of the teams on the field. There are no key numbers and not nearly as much of an advantage in being the host team.
Baseball betting ultimately evolved to offer run lines, where a favourite or underdog team has some margin to cover, like a spread in football or basketball, but that is not as common as betting on the true outcome, the side or the total (# of runs scored). Unlike soccer, there are no ties, so three way betting is not a factor in baseball.
Most Common Types of Baseball Bets
Money Line is the industry term for picking the winner of the game. There is nothing complicated to it, each game will have a favourite and an underdog and you can select one or the other to win. The pricing or odds on the game are determined by the relative quality of the opposing teams and their probability of winning.
You will see the odds change as money enters the marketplace or new information is available. Favourites will have a value with a - and underdogs a +. Example Los Angeles Dodgers -130 and Tampa Bay Rays +150. In this example a $130 wager on L.A. will pay $100 and a $100 wager on Tampa will pay $150.
Total is the industry term for the total number of runs scored by both teams in a game. It often incorporates a half run to avoid ties and thus voided bets (scoring a half run is impossible no matter what the algorithm say). This is a very popular form of betting because you can be wrong about your handicap in terms of who is going to win, while still cashing your bet.
Most totals bets are released at an industry standard of -110 for both sides. However, as the market evolves or new information is available the pricing and the total can and will change. Example: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Tampa Bay Rays, Total 8.5, Under -110/Over -110. In both cases you wager $110 to win $100.
The run line is baseball's version of the point spread. The main difference is that most lines are universally established at 1.5 so you are either selecting the favourite to win by more than a run or the underdog to keep it close and lose by just a run.
Run line bets are posted at the favourite -1.5 runs at a price of -110, similar to spread betting in other sports. The underdogs are priced at +1.5, -110. What you may win or lose in the odds you can gain with a broader range of winning outcomes. Especially with underdogs where like in other spread betting sports, your team can lose the game, but still win your bet if they keep it close.
What to look for in a Sportsbook
For baseball betting there are a couple of things to look for in sportsbook, beyond trustworthiness and reliability. The main thing is looking at their spread on the money lines. Some books keep it really tight but others use more of a true power rating approach.
The tight lines are usually about a dime off example, -140/+130 but some books will take a more pure approach and offer a greater range, such as -140, +150. The better prices you get the less perfect you have to be with your handicaps.
The other thing to look for are increased betting options. Some offer only the standard betting options listed above while others offer derivative bet options like betting on the first five innings or alternate totals.
Handicapping baseball is one of the hardest ways to turn a profit because the game is not time bound. The more options a sportsbook offers, the better chance to find an angle that can be profitable.
Some Betting Strategies
Baseball has led the analytics revolution in all sports. That is primarily because it is a game of batter vs. pitcher, repeated multiple times throughout the game. Though there are countless variables surrounding those contests the basic nature lends itself to analysis and projection. That does not make it any easier to bet baseball games though.
When I am betting baseball I start by looking at the starting pitching matchups, and more specifically, can I make the case for the underdog. Do they have a better starter? Does whether that pitcher is left or right-handed offer some advantage? Or home or away? Or performance against that particular team?
Once you go a little more granular you may start to find advantages that might not be properly priced in the the lines. I focus on underdogs because I am looking for better payoffs that mean I do not have to hit on as high a percentage.
I am also increasingly looking at some derivative bets where you can win even if true final outcome if hard to forecast. An obvious version of this is a first five innings bet. At its core you are betting on which starting pitcher will perform better and not leaving open to chance that the bullpen might lose the game on your behalf.
Any baseball bettor can tell you about a bad beat where the bullpen just couldn't close the win, the same way that diehard fans can. Starting pitching is critical to any handicap and the first five bet is the most pure way to play it.
The other bet that I know is growing in popularity are team totals. This is a derivative of the game total, where your win probability can increase because you are using only one variable instead of two. Sometimes I look at a game and everything tells me that Team X is going to hit pitcher Y, but I am not sure how Team X's pitchers are going to hold up, or who is going to win, I just feel confident that that they will hit. Taking the team total gives me an opportunity to cash within multiple winning scenarios. Maybe they score 7 runs and win the game easily 7-1. Or maybe they score 7 and give up even more and lose 10-7. Team totals, are often in the range of 3.5 to 5.5 and though it is still a wager and thus never guaranteed, there are more possible outcomes where playing a team total can cash regardless of the final result. It is still a yes/no bet but you don't have to be as fine in your handicapping, which is a plus.
There are certainly many more options and strategies to explore as you dive deeper into MLB wagering. Hopefully this info helps you get started.